When it comes to choosing the best toys of the year, Rakuten doesn’t simply play around.
Last month, Rakuten Ichiba announced the winners of the second annual Rakuten Toy Awards at Crimson House in Tokyo. The prize was awarded based on a combination of e-commerce data and counsel from toy aficionados such as education expert Dr. Kazuo Hiraki of Tokyo University and children’s author Toshiyuki Iwaki.
Rakuten Ichiba itself enjoys a certain level of authority on the subject: With more than 10,000 shops selling toys, the platform attracts many Japanese parents looking to fill Christmas stockings and purchase gifts for their little ones throughout the year.
Read on to find out this year’s five category winners.
Connecting with the world: for pre-toddlers
The 4-way Kick & Play Piano Gym from Fisher-Price, built with pre-toddlers in mind, uses sound to encourage kids to discover the connection between their own actions and the world around them. “It’s often said that babies begin learning with their legs,” explained Toshiyuki Iwaki. “Accidentally kicking around and making noise allows kids to discover that their own actions can influence the world around them.”
Absolutely adorable: Toys that tug at parents’ heartstrings
Reviewers and judges alike were won over by this adorable teddy bear rocking chair, complete with musical ears and seatbelt. “One look at your little one rocking away on this chair is enough to make any mom or dad forget the hardships of parenthood,” commented Dr. Kazuo Hiraki.
Team players: Toys that encourage social interaction
Toys that facilitate collaboration between both adults and kids form an essential building block (!) for any child’s early education. This year, these oversized toy building blocks took the category prize with their ability to encourage kids to creatively cooperate. “Small building blocks tend to be associated with playing alone, but these blocks are big enough to command the attention of two or even more people,” shared Hiraki.
Stocking Stuffer: Toys guaranteed to be a hit on Christmas
In the gift category, judges picked the Plus 10 from Nic. This set of 50 wooden rings and dice leaves it entirely up to kids’ imaginations for a nearly limitless variety of games. “There aren’t any rules about how it should be played, so even though kids might be a bit confused at the beginning, there are so many ways to play that it will captivate kids at any age up to elementary school,” commented Iwaki. “It makes it really easy for kids to visualize numbers and amounts. I hear it’s quite a popular toy over in Europe!”
For their second pick, judges went for the timeless mini-trampoline. “It’s a classic, but every household should have one of these,” declared Hidekatsu Matsuyama of Rakuten Ichiba. “Not only is it great to have something that kids will go off and use of their own accord, but it’s also sturdy enough for adults to use, which is a plus if you want to exercise at home!”
The talk of the town: This year’s trending toys
Board games in Japan enjoyed a significant boost in popularity this year, following 11-year-old Keisuke Fukuchi’s victory at the World Othello Championship in Prague. His achievement sparked an upsurge in sales of the timeless board game, Othello. This game is widely credited to be the invention of Goro Hasegawa, also an avid Japanese Go player. Judges picked it as the trending toy of 2018.
Coding-kids 2020: Predictions for toys to come
With Japan’s planned “education revolution” on the horizon for 2020, toymakers are gearing up for a surge in demand for learning toys. As a potential favorite in years to come, judges picked out the Programming Robot Code-A-Pillar, which teaches kids the fundamentals of coding by changing the way the toy moves according to how its segments are arranged.
Meanwhile, foreign language education is also under the spotlight, and judges highlighted the Fisher-Price Bilingual Learning Box to help kids get a head start on their English.
Japan’s biggest toy store ― now also a toymaker?
Following the success of last year’s event, Rakuten collaborated with the 2017 overall winner, Kazuo Hiraki and Toshiyuki Iwaki to create the perfect toy, which took the form of this wooden puzzle game. The product is the result of the feedback and wishes of parents received after last year’s award, featuring a locally sourced wooden construction and a design that gives kids the freedom to create their own games.
With hundreds of thousands of different toys to choose from ― combined with a dedication to finding the best toys to fit parents’ needs ― Rakuten Ichiba is cementing its reputation as Japan’s premier online destination for toys.